Many things are known about Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, yet many things still await to be discovered (and sadly, many will never be discovered). Widely considered an archetype of the “Renaissance man”, he was a man whose curiosity was equaled only by his intelligence and talent. Among others, he was a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician, and writer. Many claim he was the smartest man to ever live – a true genius – while others claim he was the most talented to ever live… either way, one thing’s for sure: he was a one of a kind. Here are some of the things through which Leonardo da Vinci contributed to mankind:
Something as simple yet as important as the scissors had a huge importance in the development of mankind. Who knows how many centuries would have passed without this tool had it not been for the man? Just think about all the tailors… not much of a job left for them, huh
The first parachute had been imagined and sketched by Leonardo Da Vinci in the 15th century. It’s hard to believe something as “modern” as a parachute could be invented over 500 years ago. Leonardo’s parachute design consists of sealed linen cloth held open by a pyramid of wooden poles, about seven metres long. The invention would allow any man to “throw himself down from any great height without suffering any injury,” da Vinci said. Still, because his ideas were way ahead of his time, the technology was not able to sustain his ideas, thus nobody invented a practical parachute until 1783.
Without a doubt the most famous painting of the world, Mona Lisa (or Gioconda) has fascinated people for centuries – and for good reason. It is said that just the lips took 10 years to make! Also, it has fueled an impressive amount of theories, due to it’s mysterious smile and implicit (for some) sexual hint, but also because of the fact that it also has some man traits, despite also having pregnant features. Still, the enigmatic smile is the crowning of a genius.
Leonardo’s formal training in the anatomy of the human body began with his apprenticeship to Andrea del Verrocchio, his teacher insisting that all his pupils learn anatomy. As an artist, he grew fond of topographic anatomy, drawing many studies of muscles, tendons and other visible anatomical features. Also, his drawing of the Vitruvian man is iconic: a nude male figure in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and simultaneously inscribed in a circle and square was almost a science fiction topic in 1487. The measurements are those of an average man, surprisingly correct (again, on average).
During his lifetime and even after that, Leonardo was valued as an engineer. Still, with his imagination, it was hard to remain practical all the time, so some of his inventions were not devisable (at least not at that time). In 2001, a vision of his was resurrected by some engineers who built a small bridge based on his ideas. For much of his life, Leonardo was fascinated by the phenomenon of flight, producing many studies of the flight of birds, including his c. 1505 Codex on the Flight of Birds. Still, what chances would you have of somebody actually building the helicopters and tanks you designed? Even today, his engineering ideas still fascinate researchers.
Many of his ideas were unpractical, many were just brilliantly applied, many had to wait hundreds of years before they could be applied. Also, his connection with the masonry is widely known and speculations have always been made. Stay tuned for a list of Leonardo’s more poetic ideas, and speculations that surround his unbelievable life.
Copyright 2008 ZME Science
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!